Sunday, December 4, 2011

Baked vegies with a difference & a truly awesome salad

Here are a couple of simple, yet really yummy, meals I have eaten in the last week.

This is a meal my special man made me to welcome me home from NZ. It's based on Carla's Stuffed Butternut Pumpkin. This is a pumpkin stuffed with rice, chickpeas, capsicum & onion. The only thing we would have done differently is bake the pumpkin for longer, because it was a little bit firm. But, overall, delicious & a fantastic idea - thanks Caral!
Rather than waste the pumpkin flesh that had been scooped out, S mixed it with the leftover chickpeas, & fried it up with some onions, then stuffed the remaining capsicum & baked it for about 30min. Yum.

This is one of my all-time favourite salads. It's stupidly simple - literally just mix a bunch of baby spinach with a tin of drained chickpeas & a couple of finely chopped tomatoes. Add a splash of olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar & some salt & pepper. This was our main meal, so to fill it out a little I picked up a ciabatta & baked some croutons to throw in.
I love croutons. Seriously, how awesome are they?

About Life, Rozelle

So I've found myself living in Rozelle. It's a lovely part of Sydney & the walk down Darling St through Balmain offers hours of potential eating & shopping. Of course, the first thing I did was check out the vegan eating options. The obvious one is Harvest Vegetarian, which is top of my 'must try' list. Unfortunately I'm also currently unemployed & expensive meals are temporarily off the agenda.

But, day 1 at my new home & I was still full of optimism about my employment prospects, so splashed out on lunch at About Life, Rozelle's organic supermarket. Like many organic stores it has a cafe attached, with a fair amount of vegan offerings on the menu.

I chose one of the breakfast options - the Scrambled Tofu.
This was different from the usual cafe fare. Soy sauce was absent from the sauce, which made me happy, and the tofu was instead flavoured with turmeric, cumin (I think) & something else I couldn't put my finger on. I actually enjoyed the toast most of all - thick & crusty & wholesomely satisfying.

Being part of a supermarket, there's not a whole load of atmosphere, though out on the verandah it is quite pleasant. I'd recommend it as a good spot for a quick lunch or snack, rather than a destination.

About Life
605 Darling St, Rozelle (they also have another store in Bondi Junction)
Mon-Thur 6am-8pm; Fri 6am-7pm; Sat & Sun 8am-5pm

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Vegan eating NZ - and the rest

To finish up my vegan eating in NZ posts, here's the rest of the vegan treasures I found along the way.

This Felafel Pita at Felafel Gourmet in Nelson was divine. I'm a big fan of sauce, and as you can see, this baby was absolutely loaded up with tahini sauce & chilli.
Felafel Gourmet
195 Hardy St, Nelson
Mon-Thu 9.30am – 5.30pm; Fri 9.30am-8pm; Sat 9.30am-4.30pm

From memory this Pizza & Salad lunch special at Winnies in Queenstown was only $10 - very good value. This is the Caprico without cheese. Not the tastiest (the sauce could have done with more flavour), but it did have a nice crispy base & wasn't short on toppings.
7 The Mall, Queenstown
7 days, 12pm-late

The Roasted Zucchini & Lentil Salad (without the feta) at Dux de Luxe in Queenstown was really good. It was a warm salad & had a nice balance of leafy greens, lentils & other assorted salad ingredients. The dressing was good too. Dux is a cool place - I recommend it for a quiet beer at the end of the day (before the DJ starts).
Dux de Luxe
14 Church St, Queenstown
7 days, 12pm-late

The ol' favourite - Avocado & Tomato on toast. I don't remember the name of the cafe, but it was a really funky little place in the main street of Wanaka.

Probably the biggest surprise of my whole trip. Stumbled into this place after arriving late into Fox Glacier. In such a small town, I really didn't expect much in the way of choice, but Cooks Saddle Cafe & Saloon had this Lentil Stuffed Capsicum listed as vegan right there on the menu - no changes required! It reminded me very much of nutmeat in texture & flavour & was very similar to the meals I make at home. A very pleasant meal to end a long day of driving.
Cooks Saddle Cafe & Saloon
19 State Highway 6, Fox Glacier
7 days, 11am-late (hours are seasonal, so call to check 03 751 0700)

Finally, this is a pretty standard Roast Vegetable Panini at Shoreline Cafe in Kaiteri. There was a false start with this one. I had asked for it without the ricotta & pesto (from memory), but it came out covered in melted mozarella (which wasn't listed on the menu). I took it back, apologising for not having specified no dairy (I'm always forgetting to do that & I really should have learnt my lesson by now). The waitress was pretty friendly about it & I was soon delivered a fresh meal. I really hate sending meals back (we've all heard the stories about chefs spitting in the food), but in this case there was nothing I could do to avoid the cheese & I was really hungry.
Shoreline Cafe
Corner Inlet & Sandy Bay Rds, Kaiteriteri
Summer - 7 days 7.30am-10.30pm; Winter - 7 days 10am-5pm (call to check - 03 527 8507)

Vegan eating NZ - post Milford Tramp

Have you ever done a tramp in NZ? Or a multi-day hike anywhere in the world? If you have, you'll know that after 4 days of eating the same food, you'll be craving something different in a big way. That's how I felt when we got back to Te Anau after completing the Milford Tramp.

First thing on the menu was one very long, very hot shower. It was awesome, the best shower I have EVER had. I was so in love with that shower I wanted to marry it.

Anyway, moving on, second thing on the menu was a nice glass of whiskey - which definitely hit the spot. And third thing on the menu was a hot, tasty meal. The Ranch in Te Anau provided just that. It's not a fancy place - just a country cafe/bistro/pub playing some pretty bad country music. But it was warm, the staff were friendly & they had vegetarian nachos on the menu. All i had to do was pass on the cheese & I was delivered a beautiful, tasty, crunchy, hot plate of goodness. The topping was the best thing about these nachos - with a whole mix of sauteed vegetables & beans.
The Ranch Cafe & Bar
111 Town Centre, Te Anau
7 days, 12pm til late

The fourth thing on the menu had to wait until the next morning - a real coffee. NZ is like France - they do bowls of coffee. Bowls of coffee are so awesome. Especially when you haven't had a real coffee in 4 days... sigh :-)

Vegan eating NZ - Otago Rail Trail

When we headed off on our adventure on the Otago Rail Trail, I wasn't expecting a whole lot in the way of vegan food. After all, once you leave the big cities behind in Australia, you're pretty much left with chips or salad at the pub. Not so in NZ. Not only is vegan not a dirty word, I actually found that people went out of their way to please me. Obviously, there were a couple of times when I resorted to a bowl of wedges at the pub, but considering we were on the road for 4 full days, that's not too bad.

Here are a couple of the highlights, starting with the Dunstan Hotel in Clyde. This is a baked potato stuffed with stir-fried vegies. I asked for no dairy & voila! This monster of a meal was promptly delivered. Awesome. I struggled to finish it, but forced myself to swallow every last mouthful, because I was worried I wouldn't see that many vegetables again for the next 4 days. I was wrong (happily).

Dunstan Hotel
35 Sunderland St, Clyde
7 days 11am-11.30pm

My other highlight was the Oturehua Tavern. Grahame & Liz run this awesome country pub & were our saviours after we were caught in 30min of drenching rain on the final leg into town. After settling into our room & changing into dry clothes, we wandered into the pub in our socks, put our shoes by the fire to dry & pretty much spent the rest of the evening curled up next to the fire sampling the local reds.

Having been told I was vegan (because our room came with breakfast), Liz very kindly went out of her way to make me a special lentil pie (& also made the bro a vegetarian version of the same pie). It was so awesome I can't really describe it in words. Because it wasn't just that the pie tasted good (& it tasted really really good). It was the friendliness, the welcoming atmosphere, the willingness to go out of their way to please & the feeling of having a warm, delicious meal at the end of a long day's cycling.
I highly recommend paying Grahame & Liz a visit. If you're planning to visit for lunch or dinner I would call ahead because I don't think there's anything vegan on the menu, but the tavern is equally worth a visit for a drink & a good chat.

Oturehua Tavern
Main Rd, Oturehua
Not sure about opening hours - give them a call 03 444 5856

Vegan eating NZ - Wellington

After 3 weeks in NZ I was pleasantly surprised with how well I was eating. I knew from prior research that Auckland (which I didn't even get around to visiting) & Wellington were going to be good, but I was a bit unsure about the rest of the country.

Here's a summary of the vegan eats I sampled in Wellington at the beginning & end of my trip. Starting off with a snack at Matterhorn. Matterhorn is all dark wood, dim lighting & trendy as can be. I liked it, but would have felt more comfortable at a laid-back bar. We got there too late for the full menu so had to satisfy ourselves with the bar snacks (there isn't really a whole lot more choice on the other menus for a vegan anyway). There are a couple of vegan options in the snacks - I went for the White Bean & Lemon Dip with Crispy Pitas & Spring Onion Relish.
This was yummy - not much different from what I make at home, but then, I wasn't at home was I?

106 Cuba St, Wellington
Mon-Fri 11.30am-late; Sat-Sun 10am-late

While discussing where we should go for dinner one evening I discovered Southern Cross. This pub/bar has a very vegan-friendly menu, making it oh so easy by actually marking the suitable items with the goold ol' 'v' for vegetarian or 'vg' for vegan. Love it. First visit I chose the Homemade Dips with Olives & Toasted Bread.
Not super-fancy, but everything it promised to be - there was a kumara & a beetroot dip & all the breads were really tasty.

The bro went with something a little more adventurous - a Stonegrill with Marinated Tofu, Veggies & Sesame Soy Noodles. The stonegrill is a volcanic rock heated to 400 degrees celsius, which you then use to grill your own meal. It's pretty cool. And also very tasty.
On my second visit I wasn't as hungry, so chose the Warm Winter Salad of parsnip, pear, walnuts, greens & marinated tofu. It was a big meal & extremely satisfying. Really hit the spot.
I loved this place. The vibe was great, the staff were friendly, the service was efficient & the music was cool. You should definitely put it on your Wellington list.

Southern Cross
39 Abel Smith St, Te Aro, Wellington
No idea what their hours are, but you could give them a call - 04 384 9085

Here we have one of the vegan breakfast options at the Maranui Cafe - the Scrambled Tofu with Avocado. There was way too much soy sauce on this - especially for a breakfast dish. But I loved the avocado toast - it went some way to balancing out that overwhelming salty flavour.
Maranui is a really cool cafe with great staff, great music, a laid-back vibe & fantastic views over the harbour. There's not a great deal on offer for vegans, but the coffee is good, so I recommend you at least give it a go.

Maranui Cafe
Maranui Surf Life Saving Club
The Parade, Lyall Bay, Wellington,
7 days, 7am-5pm

Last but not least is the Wellington stalwart - Midnight Espresso. For an omni cafe, this place is uber-vegan friendly. There's loads to choose from - whether you want a quick counter snack or something more substantial off the menu.

On my first visit I was just after a refreshing drink & decided to ask if their milkshakes could be made vegan. The answer? Yes they can. And to replace the dairy ice-cream they used avocado... aweseome! So here is my Vegan Raspberry & Avocado milkshake - super creamy, beautifully rich & even a little bit good for me :-)
My second visit to Midnight was at lunchtime & I was starving after a morning of tourist-type activities. I chose the vegan nachos. They came loaded with vegan goodies - beans, olives, jalapenos, salsa, avocado, vegan mayo & hommus. Yum yum yum!
Wellington knows how to do cool without pretension like nowhere else I've ever been & Midnight is no exception. Friendly staff, awesome laid-back vibe, good music (of course) & a menu that will leave you wanting to come back again & again until you have tried it all. A must for any veg*n in town.

Midnight Espresso
178 Cuba St, Wellington
Mon-Fri 7.30am-late; Sat-Sun 8am-late